Banned Books Week: Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher

This is my last post for Banned Books Week this year.  Reminder: I’m also hosting a banned books giveaway, so I hope you’ll check it out and enter to win a banned book of your choice (ends Saturday).

Banned Book: Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher

Where/Why It’s Been Banned: “The Belleville, Wis. School Board (2011) decided to keep a book that’s required reading for high school freshmen in the curriculum despite a parent’s complaint that the book was “pornography” and its language was “pervasively vulgar.” Published in 1993, the novel has been read by ninth-grade students at Belleville High School for eight years. The book deals with topics of abortion, sexuality, and the power of religion.” (Source–Quote taken from ALA banned books resource page)

My Thoughts: Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes is another staple in YA literature.  In my About Me page I mention the Young Adult Lit course I took during my undergrad at Central Michigan with Dr. Steffel.  This is one of the novels Dr. Steffel required us to read; it’s also one of my favorites from that class.  I haven’t read Crutcher’s book since the summer I took that course, but I still remember it well because it’s a powerful story.

Do some of the characters swear in the novel?  Yes.  I had a discussion with my freshmen the other day about the use of “vulgar language” in novels.  I was impressed when a majority of them said that they can tell when an author is using that language purposefully and when it seems like it’s thrown in for no reason at all.  They understood that different characters speak different ways, so some may swear when others won’t, just like real life teenagers.  The claim that Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes is pornography is outrageous.  There simply isn’t anything pornagraphic in the novel.  The characters are in a class where big issues are discussed and debated, so topics like abortion and sexuality do come up and fit with the story.

In my opinion, if you’re a teacher or librarian, it would serve you well to have a copy of Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes in your library.  Everything about this novel is purposeful and well-meaning.  When I think about this book I think of the power of friendship, overcoming abuse and stereotypes, and self-esteem, just to name a few.  Chris Crutcher is a master storyteller and Staying Fat for Sarah Brynes is one of the best examples of his craft.

Student Response: Kayla, one of my Young Adult Lit students, is focusing her trimester project on Chris Crutcher so she recently read Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes.  “If Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes was banned it would be upsetting.  It was a very good book; I could barely put it down.  I think this book being banned takes away the opportunity for a good book to be read, but also for people to learn about what happens in this kind of relationships.  I loved it.”

Comments

  1. This was one of the best books I’ve ever read. In school now to teach high school English, and I’m hopeful that I will be able to use this book as part of my curriculum!!

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